THE KENTUCKY TOBACCO
This tobacco is a derived, by hybridization and selection, of the North American flue-cured type.
This tobacco is dark and it comes from the fire-cured category, the tobaccos cured with direct fire, with special wood, which smoke slowly penetrates the cells of the tobacco leaves giving to them a specific bouquet of cured tobacco. The colour of the leaves is brown (maduro), dark brown and black (oscuro). The Kentucky tobacco, was used at first as chewing tobacco and then to produce the "strong" cigarettes. It is cultivated in the United States (Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee), in Mexico, in Africa (Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Zaire, Sierra Leone, Mali), in Europe (Poland, Italy). The fire-cured tobaccos constitute 1% of the tobaccos produced in the world.
The Kentucky tobacco is one of the first American tobaccos that was introduced in Italy.
At first it was imported from the United States to manufacture the Toscano cigar and then, in Italy began the cultivation of it, in 1850. The hybridations with some local varieties and the adaptations to the environment created a very typical Kentucky tobacco.
Every gram is formed by 13-14.000 seeds about. The sowing is made in February-March, using 0,20 grams every square meter of seedbed. Sixty sq.mts. of seedbed can produce 1 hectare of cultivation. The seedbed needs frequent irrigations, thinning of the plants, weed eradication and protection from vegetable and animal parasites, and above all protection from the blue mould.
The Kentucky prefers deep, fresh and medium soils, naturally fertile and rich in organic substrate.
The soils that are too loose and sandy, give a bare tissue product, the soils too clay and permeable produce tobaccos with ordinary and rough tissue. The organic manuring made in autumn do not overcome 100 quintals per hectar. The mineral fertilizers are distributed in spring, 150 kg. about per hectar of nitrogen, phosphoric anhydride and potassium oxide.
The transplant is made with plants 10-15 cm. high, and it is made in May-June, with distances of about 90 x 90 cm.
The normal production condition is 10.000 - 12.000 plants every hectar, 100.000 leaves every hectar.
The Kentucky needs earthing up of the plants, top dressing and complementary irrigation made above all during the leaves ripening, and the side-shoot removal. The tipping is made with 14-20 leaves useful for the plant, eliminating the floral bud and the upper leaves. So, there is an increase in leaves, especially in the upper part, and the leaves tissue is more substantial and elastic. By treatments with sistemic and contact germination inhibitors the axillary shoots are eliminated.
The Kentucky plant can grow till 2 meters, its stem is vigorous and with short internodes, 18-20 wide leaves lanceolated, dark green coloured. In normal conditions this plant is luxuriant, with a cylindrical or conical shape, 180-200 cm. high, with 24-28 useful leaves. The leaves are oval at the basis of the plant, and lanceolated on cyme, dark green. The leaves are 70-80 cm. long and 40-50 cm. wide, rich in resin. The keels and the veins of the leaf are very marked, it has consistent open flower head and pink corolla. The fruit is a capsule containing 3.500 seeds about.
The Kentucky cultivation was at the peak around the half of the '80s, when the production overcame 12.000 tons.
After, this production reduced to 6.000 tons about, due to a decrease in cigar consumption, a decrease in demand by the manufacture industry, and due to the modifications of the rules made by the European Community (for ex. the maximum granted quotas). Nevertheless, the production during this last years is maintaining a stability.
The Kentucky production represents nowadays about 5% of the tobaccos cultivated in Italy. The half of the whole production is made in Campania Region, above all in Benevento (45% of the national production). It is cultivated in Tuscany, Veneto, Lazio and Umbria.
The ripening of the leaves occurs 40-50 days after the tipping, it occurs from the lower part (lower leaves) to the upper part (median leaves, top leaves), and it provokes a colour clearing up and the appearance of yellow-greenish spots. The harvesting is made detaching the 2-3 leaves at a time from the stem. The harvesting of the whole plants is rarely made. Then, the leaves are put in the curing barns. The yield is about 1.500-2000 kgs. every hectar.
The curing barns have "hanging systems" for the leaf strings, and air intakes in order to regulate the humidity during the curing. The curing steps determines changing in colour and in physical state, by different gradations of temperature, adjustable by fire. There are four steps: yellowing, browning , drying of the leaf blade, and drying of the keel. During the yellowing, the leaves are positioned in closed areas for some days, ambient temperature, without fire. During the browning step, when the tobacco is mostly yellow, the fires light with strong-essence dry wood (beechtree, holm-oak, oak and similar) obtaining smoke without flame. The temperature remains at 28-30°C for one day, heating up till 38-40°C in 4-5 days, eliminating the humidity from the barns. During the browning step, when the tobacco is completely brown, the temperature is heated up to 45-50°C, activating the bulk fermentation process, giving to the tobacco a particular scent and bouquet. The humidity control avoids the overheating of the leaves rendering them unusable. During this step, the smoke renders the leaves shiny and with a compact tissue. During the next step, the keel drying lasts three days about, leaf blade becomes vitreous and fragile to the touch: the fire is put out waiting for the leaf becoming soft and pasty again. The fire is lighted again in order to heating up the temperature till 50°C obtaining a vitreous leaf again. The final operation , the moistening, allows the humidity absorption, obtaining the pasty consistence of the leaf again. The keel and the leaf blade become elastic, soft and with an uniform brown colour after the alternation of the fire and the moistening operations. The curing lasts 15-20 days using 50 kgs. of wood for every quintal of green tobacco.
PREPARATION OF THE PRODUCT
The cured leaves of Kentucky are wide, gummy, shiny, brown, elastic and resistant; the high nicotine content (3-6%) gives intense taste and bouquet. The cured leaves are generally conditioned in bales. During the pre-manufacturing process the leaves are separated depending on the use of them (wrapper, filler, cut tobacco). The Kentucky for cigar wrapper has cured and seasoned leaves, dark brown, with a substantial and rich in resin tissue, with a good combustibility. The Kentucky is used above all for the packing of Toscano cigars (wrapper and filler), and in lesser quantity for the pipe tobacco and for some kinds of cigarettes